Transport for London is to re-examine the impact the controversial Silvertown Tunnel will have on south-east and east London’s traffic because of the extension of the central London congestion charge.
Detailed studies into traffic were done ahead of the public hearings into the new road, which were held in 2016 and 2017, ahead of it being approved by the government in May 2018. (See the transport assessment submitted to the hearings.)
London mayor Sadiq Khan has always insisted that the tunnel, between the Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks, will eliminate the notorious northbound queues at the Blackwall Tunnel when it opens in 2025; the tunnel’s opponents say it will fail to do that and increase congestion at other points on the road network on both sides of the Thames.
The traffic impact will be revised following the increase in the central London congestion charge to £15 earlier this year as part of Transport for London’s coronavirus bailout. The charge now operates seven days a week from 7am to 10pm. Before June, the fee was only £10.50 and was charged from 7am to 6pm on weekdays only. It was reported this week that the change could be made permanent
The new tunnel and the Blackwall Tunnel will also charge their own fees, although these would be set at a similar level to tolls at the Dartford crossing.
“TfL is doing a comprehensive piece on monitoring and mitigation,” the tunnel’s lead sponsor Andrew Lunt said told an event held by New Civil Engineer, which reported his comments. “We are updating our traffic models right now, we’re out there now getting new data for that.
“A big part of what that will be used for is to set the user charges, which is a really important demand strategy exercise which will help inform bus strategy for example, and that absolutely has to take into account whatever the context is at the time and we will continue to monitor that once the tunnel is operational.”
He added: “It is a flexible process to make sure we deal with the context at any given time. If that’s the congestion charge being extended then we will look at that. It’s not being extended at the moment, there’s an extension of hours temporarily in place but there’s also a lot of talk about changes to road user charges in London and I think we will see something emerge on that in future years.”
The government has pushed TfL to extend the congestion charge to the North and South Circular Roads, which Khan has resisted, but TfL has mooted a “boundary charge” of £3.50 for drivers entering Greater London to help pay for the capital’s roads, which receive no funding from vehicle exercise duty, unlike roads in the rest of England.
A private consortium, Riverlinx, is raising the money to build the tunnel, which will then be paid back via the tolls. Lunt told the event that this arrangement had saved the tunnel from being mothballed or scrapped as TfL struggles for funds because of the pandemic. “If we weren’t able to do that, we’d had to find another £1bn in our investment plan, which would involve deferring or cancelling other projects, or even cancelling the Silvertown Tunnel itself,” he said.
Erith & Thamesmead MP Abena Oppong-Asare recently added her voice to calls for the tunnel be scrapped. The MPs for both sides of the proposed crossing, Matt Pennycook and Lyn Brown, have long opposed the scheme, as have Lewisham, Hackney and Southwark councils.
Newham and Greenwich councils lobbied for the tunnel to be built when Boris Johnson was mayor, but Newham reversed its stance in 2018. Greenwich’s Labour leader Danny Thorpe wrote to Khan last year asking for the tunnel to be paused, but rejected an offer to join a cross-London alliance against the scheme and the council has not formally changed its stance on the crossing.
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